Defendant in Planned Parenthood video case offered plea deal

- Under felony indictment for her role in gathering undercover video at Houston's Planned Parenthood, Sandra Merritt surrendered to law enforcement, and then walked into a Harris County Courtroom where her bond was promptly reduced from $10,000 to $2,000. 

After agreeing to return March 28, Merritt left without a word. But her Houston attorney Dan Cogdell had plenty to say.

"She's a falsely accused woman. The indictment is wrong-headed. I don't care if you are pro-life. I don't care if you are pro-choice. I don't care if you're a pro bowler. This case is dumber than a bucket of hair. It needs to be dismissed," said Cogdell.

Prosecutors allege Merritt and co-defendant David Daleiden used phony California Drivers Licenses as part of their ploy to capture on video local Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell fetal tissue gathered from abortions.

"The wrong she was righting was the sale, the potential sale of illegal baby body parts. It doesn't get more wrong than that," said Cogdell.

A grand jury declined to charge Planned Parenthood, but decided there was strong evidence the two activists broke Texas law.

Today the office of  Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced it has offered Merritt a deal called "pre-trial diversion", a way to avoid a felony conviction and ultimately clear her record.

"A pre-trial diversion is what Devon felt was the right thing to do in the case and that's something that is offered often to non-violent first offenders," said Britni Cooper an Assistant Harris County Attorney.

Responding to Fox 26, Cogdell says Anderson's offer is a signal.

"That's a clue, that's a tell. They are afraid of their case.  It's a tremendous deal if you are guilty. It's not such a great deal if you're not guilty. Look, Devon Anderson who I like and respect, she's got a real public relations problem on her hands. This case is a nightmare for her politically," said Cogdell.

DA spokesman Jeff McShan says the case against Merritt is "strong" and prosecutors are more than ready to take it to trial immediately if she chooses to decline the plea deal.

Merritt's co-defendant David Daleiden is scheduled to appear in the same courtroom Thursday.

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